Job and the Progressives

Posted on November 25, 2013 by

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In our house church for the past several months we’ve had the privilege of studying the book of Job. I saw an economic application that I thought I’d share with you. While we’re not certain of the exact time of the writing of Job, we do think that the story of Job is very old. Probably the events recounted in the story of Job occurred around the time of the patriarchs in the Old Testament. Even though the book itself is very old, there is much we can learn from Job and apply to our lives today.

Let me remind you of the basic setting of Job. Angels, including Satan, were given an audience before God. God said to Satan “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:8). Satan responded to God by saying the only reason that Job cares for you is because of what you have given him – take it away and he will “curse you to your face”. God gave Satan permission to take from Job all his wealth, his children, and his health.

After Job had suffered his calamity, three of his friends paid Job a visit “to show him sympathy and comfort him” (Job 2:11). They spent seven days and seven nights simply commiserating with Job. After these seven days, Job speaks and laments his birth. Job’s speech is the opening salvo in an ongoing dialogue with his friends. Job’s position is that he has done nothing before God to deserve what he has received. Key to Job’s friend’s theological position is the notion that the wicked are punished for their behavior right now in this life for their evil deeds. Because Job has suffered extraordinary calamity he must also have committed extraordinary sin to cause his calamitous situation. We have to understand this basic theological point of Job’s friends to see the economic  application I want to make. They are saying that material outcome is a direct and transparent indicator of guilt or innocence.

Before his calamity, Job was a very wealthy man:

Job 1:1-4

1There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. 4 His sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them.

Because Job was so wealthy, the three friend’s theological critique of his situation had to account for his loss of wealth. Since they believed his current economic situation was a result of his previous behavior they assumed that he had gained his wealth unethically.

Job 22:6-9

6 For you have exacted pledges of your brothers for nothing
and stripped the naked of their clothing.
7 You have given no water to the weary to drink,
and you have withheld bread from the hungry.
8 The man with power possessed the land,
and the favored man lived in it.
9 You have sent widows away empty,
and the arms of the fatherless were crushed.

Job’s friends assumed that he broken ancient economic biblical ethical principles.

Exodus 22:26

26 If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down,

Deuteronomy 24:6

6 “No one shall take a mill or an upper millstone in pledge, for that would be taking a life in pledge.

Isaiah 58:7

7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover him,
and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Matthew 25:42

42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink

Isaiah 10:2

2 to turn aside the needy from justice
and to rob the poor of my people of their right,
that widows may be their spoil,
and that they may make the fatherless their prey

Ezekiel 22:7

7 Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; the sojourner suffers extortion in your midst; the fatherless and the widow are wronged in you.

But we know that Job did not become wealthy by taking advantage of anyone or by cheating other people. He was “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1) before God. So Job’s three friends assumed that he had somehow come by his wealth in in the wrong way. This incorrect assumption was part of their theological position. They “knew” they were right therefore Job had to be in the wrong.

One application with direct relevance for today, is to make the misguided assumption that if someone has wealth they must have come by that wealth in an unethical way. Not too many people today think exactly like Job’s friends – assuming that what is occurring in our life at the moment is a direct transparent result of behavior yesterday. But many Christians believe people with wealth must have accumulated the money in a wrong way. Some Christians today act like like they believe an implicit Marxism that says wealth accumulation has come through exploitation. When we assume that wealth has been accumulated unethically we are doing the same thing as Job’s three friends. We are simply assuming knowledge that we simply do not have. Not only that, we’re also showing a lack of understanding of basic economics. Wealth can be grown or created, it does not have to be taken from someone or somewhere else. Don’t make the mistake of believing simply because someone else has wealth, that person has done anything wrong. They might be in the same situation that Job was in, and he was ultimately vindicated by God.

Job 42:10-13

10 And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. 11 Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him. And each of them gave him a piece of money and a ring of gold.

12 And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning. And he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. 13 He had also seven sons and three daughters.

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